Every year I have the privilege of traveling to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. There are few places I enjoy more than the Boundary Waters and no physical place that brings me greater peace. It is a place that allows me to imagine what Earth might have looked like before humans began to tinker with it. It is a place that offers the kind of silence, true silence, rarely ever heard in the busy world of today.
Imagine for a moment that you are gently lowering yourself into a canoe. You push away from the shore smoothly, making sure not to lean too far. You gather your balance again and begin to paddle. You’re sitting in the front, so all that’s before you is the tip of the canoe, the water and the tree-lined shores of the Wilderness. In the early morning there is a misty fog that sits atop the water creating a mystical canvas through which the horizon is nearly indiscernible. As you paddle your way across the lake the only sounds you hear are the droplets of water that fall from your paddle with each stroke and the occasional call of a distant loon. If you are close to shore you might hear the rustle of leaves or branches as the squirrels and chipmunks scurry about. You can, at times, hear your own breathing…a sensation that highlights the quieted world around you.
If there were ever a time you were going to bear witness to the divine, this is it. There is nothing to distract you and no one to interrupt you with a text. This is a place in which I feel God’s active presence every time I visit. From year to year, no matter what is happening in my life, my time in the Boundary Waters is a spiritual “reset” for me. It reminds me of the people I hold most dear and the ones I’ve lost on my journey. It crystalizes for me the things that are most important - my family, my friends, and my church. That time of silence in the Boundary Waters is perhaps one of the moments of my year that speaks to me the loudest.